Santa Cruz's Comets on Fire unleash an unholy fret-blazing fury that is best experienced through big, clunky headphones. Ear buds cannot properly handle the sheer magnitude of their riffage. Don't believe me? Try it. Your brain will explode, and your face will melt off like the bad guys at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. On Avatar, the follow-up to their smoldering 2004 sophomore LP Blue Cathedral, a more focused Comets on Fire rein in their humongous Hawkwind-sized stoner licks and psychedelic spasms, if only slightly. Most of the songs still escalate into wild fits of guitar shredding and fuzzy electronic whirling at some point or another. But such theatrics are now used artfully, in some cases sparingly, rarely overshadowing the songs.
"Dogwood Rust" barrels in with twin guitars ablazing before emerging from a classic rock chrysalis with an epic prog arrangement that would make Geddy Lee shit himself silly. "Lucifer's Memory" is a fluttering, gentle ramble of sweet howling, whiskey-soaked piano and quietly clambering drums that abruptly escalates into a volcanic, phase-shifting apocalypse. The most straightforward cut is "Holy Teeth," a fire-breathing rock 'n' roll dragon that tramples through the lush harmonies and carefully orchestrated chaos that constitute the bulk of Avatar's soundscape. Such meticulously sculpted songs deserve copious repeat listenings. But do yourself a favor and invest in the right headphones; your face will thank you.